Minimizing college tuition

Part of the college application process should be to think of ways you can help cut the high cost of education. Yes, it will take some extra effort, but it will be worth it. Here are some strategies for minimizing tuition.

Learn faster: Accelerated classes cram a semester's worth of material into six- or eight-week sessions. The classes, while intense, can really help to move up your graduation date. You land the degree you want at a much lower price.

Tuition in an accelerated degree program at some schools runs about half the cost of their traditional degree programs. And many schools offer bachelor's degree programs in three years instead of four.

An accelerated degree program is a great option for a student with a clear career goal. If you're ready to work hard, why not put your college education on the fast track?

The flipside of this, of course, is to make sure you earn enough credits to be graduated in four years. Failing to take a full load of credits can mean you get charged the full-time student tuition rate, but it will take you longer to graduate. The sad truth is that the average graduate takes more than four years to finish, driving up overall costs.

Did you know…
  • Students who attended one school took an average of 51 months
  • Students who attended two schools took an average of 59 months
  • Students who attended three or more took an averge of 67 months
  • 69% of college graduates in 1999-2000 borrowed to pay for school
  • Average loan amount was $19,300
  • 80% of college students work while in school
  • 63% of undergraduates received financial aid 2003-04
Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics

Start small, move up: In many cases, credits earned at a less-expensive college or university can be transferred and applied toward a degree from a pricey, elite school. You could earn a prestigious diploma at a fraction of the price.

So why not attend a community college for a couple of years and then transfer to your dream college? It's not as if the fancy diploma you'll hang on your wall will say "Transfer student." Besides, taking the transfer-student route will save you some serious cash.

Every credit earned at a low-cost community college could save you hundreds of dollars in tuition. Also, by bunking at your parent's house, you could knock down your room-and-board charges to zero.

The first step is learning about articulation agreements at your dream university and nearby two-year colleges. An articulation agreement specifies which community college course credits will be accepted toward a bachelor's degree at the four-year college or university. It also outlines scholarship requirements and specifies what kind of grades a student must achieve to transfer to the four-year school as a junior.


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